NBC Political Director Presses Mattis to Attack Trump, General Refuses

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Fresh off of touting the simplicity of the Democratic impeachment narrative against President Trump earlier that morning, NBC political director Chuck Todd took to Meet the Press and pushed former defense secretary, General James Mattis to attack the President. The retired General refused to acquiesce to Todd’s prodding and declared it was “the worst time, I think, for military people to step out like that.”

In the pre-recorded interview, Todd’s pressing for political declarations started with a question about one of the liberal media’s oldest obsessions: Russia. “Are you concerned that while the country speaks with one voice on a governmental level when it comes to Russia that the political leader is not?

Yeah, I won't make political assessments right now. The military job is to protect this experiment. This America. And the American people will decide who the political leaders will be. I have a lot of faith the American people will be represented by the right political leaders,” Mattis declined to answer.

As a follow-up, Todd pointed out how the media had been demanding Mattis speak out against the President for a long time. He even read headlines to his guest and asked how he would handle getting subpoenaed by Democrats in an investigation:

TODD: I'm curious how you handle all of the recommendations you get in the media to speak out. As you know there’s probably a column every other day where somebody says, I'll put up some headlines from some of them. You've seen them. “It's time for these officials to come to the aid of their country.” “Trump is in free fall. We need insights on his fitness from Mattis, Kelly and others. Now.” “Those who worked with Trump must now tell Congress what they know.”

First of all, if Congress suspend you and -- for to try to find out what you knew about decision-making processes, when it came to Ukraine or other things. Would you cooperate?

 

 

Mattis said that he’d obey the law, but urged Todd to “remember that the Defense Department stays outside of politics for a reason. There is a long-standing tradition why you do not want the military to be engaged in politics.”

After probing again on when Mattis thought was the appropriate time to speak out against Trump, the General pushed back hard by stating: “Well, Chuck, I have a lot of faith in the American people. They know how to vote. They don't need military generals telling them that they think this political assessment is the one they should go with or the other one is, that sort of thing.

Adding: “Especially as corrosive as the political debate has grown in the country. This would be the worst time I think for military people to step out like that. But also the Constitution, I think, is a very hearty document. I’ve got a love affair with the U.S. Constitution. I actually used to read it about once a year and always found something new in it.”

Todd seized on Mattis’ admiration for the Constitution and used it as a chance to pull out his pocket Constitution and take a thinly veiled swipe at President Trump (click “expand”):

TODD: I always carry one with me.

MATTIS: Well, I admire that.

TODD: All the time because you need it.

MATTIS: I had a pocket version myself. I didn't carry it all the time but I carried it a lot of days.

TODD: I used to not carry it all the time. I need it more often these days.

MATTIS: We all need it today.

NBC then cut away from the pre-recorded interview and told viewers they could go and watch the rest of it online.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

NBC’s Meet the Press
October 13, 2019
11:01:20 a.m. Eastern

(…)

CHUCK TODD: Are you concerned that while the country speaks with one voice on a governmental level when it comes to Russia that the political leader is not?

GEN. JAMES MATTIS: Yeah, I won't make political assessments right now. The military job is to protect this experiment. This America. And the American people will decide who the political leaders will be. I have a lot of faith the American people will be represented by the right political leaders.

TODD: I'm curious how you handle all of the recommendations you get in the media to speak out. As you know there’s probably a column every other day where somebody says, I'll put up some headlines from some of them. You've seen them. “It's time for these officials to come to the aid of their country.” “Trump is in free fall. We need insights on his fitness from Mattis, Kelly and others. Now.” “Those who worked with Trump must now tell Congress what they know.”

First of all, if Congress suspend you and -- for to try to find out what you knew about decision-making processes, when it came to Ukraine or other things. Would you cooperate?

MATTIS: Well, I'd have to know specifically what it was about. I mean, I obey the law and I've obeyed the law my entire life, so that's not the issue. But again, remember that the Defense Department stays outside of politics for a reason. There is a long-standing tradition why you do not want the military to be engaged in politics. Now, I realize some individuals have done so. But again, only in Washington could I resign publicly over a matter of policy on the stand of principle.

TODD: You feel your resignation letter is pretty clear what you think. What more do you need to add is what you’re saying?

MATTIS: It's a page-and-a-half long. It talks about our security being tied inextricably to our alliances. And I don't know what more I can say about how I think we ought to treat allies and how we should treat those who are adversaries.

TODD: Is America safer today because of this decision in Syria?

MATTIS: That's a complex question. I would say America is always safer when it builds the trust and a sense of reliability among our allies that we're reliable.

TODD: When you have said if you feel like you need to speak out more, will you. You’ll know what that looks like.

MATTIS: Mm-hmm.

TODD: That seems to think that you do have more to say, you just don't believe this period of time is appropriate?

MATTIS: Well, Chuck, I have a lot of faith in the American people. They know how to vote. They don't need military generals telling them that they think this political assessment is the one they should go with or the other one is, that sort of thing. Especially as corrosive as the political debate has grown in the country. This would be the worst time I think for military people to step out like that.

But also the Constitution, I think, is a very hearty document. I’ve got a love affair with the U.S. Constitution. I actually used to read it about once a year and always found something new in it.

TODD: I always carry one with me.

MATTIS: Well, I admire that.

TODD: All the time because you need it.

MATTIS: I had a pocket version myself. I didn't carry it all the time but I carried it a lot of days.

TODD: I used to not carry it all the time. I need it more often these days.

MATTIS: We all need it today.

(…)

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